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Newmarket Handicap preview

The best sprint handicap of the year in Australia, the Lexus Newmarket Handicap. A star-studded honour roll over the years, including recent winners Brazen Beau, Lankan Rupee and Hay List; Royal Ascot winners in Black Caviar, Scenic Blast, Miss Andretti and Takeover Target; and exceptional sprinters of my younger years such as Brawny Spirit, Schillaci, Special and Placid Ark.

Always a great race, made all the more intriguing by the handicap scale. Make the best horses carry a bit of weight and prove their stardom, rather than being protected in set weight races, which more often that not lack genuine pace. And the $1.25m in the purse is a solid carrot to tempt them too. Whoich one of these might be heading to Royal Ascot this year?

Returning to the blog with his wise analysis is Mitch Fenton, @WeekendKingRace.

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Lexus Newmarket Handicap
Flemington
Group 1, AU$1,250,000, 1200m
1550 local time, 0450 GMT


1.CHAUTAUQUA 58KG

Triple G1 winner & deserved top weight coming off a terrific win fresh in the G1 Lightning Stakes where he never looked a likely winner until the last 100m when he really sprouted wings and jumped up out of the ground. Here's his Lightning win.



Was placed in this race last year after a luckless run in transit when arguably he should have won, and that's the key to the big grey - does he get the luck in running? Because if he does and he's got an open runway to unleash his terrific finishing finale he'll be very hard to hold out despite the weight. Hasn't missed a place in seven runs at Flemington including four wins. In fact he's only been out of the placings twice in his 19 start career and both of those were very unlucky runs in big fields after missing the start. The 58kg is somewhat of a concern which sees him giving key rivals as much as an 8kg advantage. With that in mind jockey Dwayne Dunn can ill afford to strike trouble when making his run as the weight will anchor him if he's forced to stop-start.

Terrific sprinter, definitely one of the main hopes. Looks at bit skinny at the current quote of $2.45 though...I'd need $3.50 to consider backing him.

2.DELECTATION 56KG

Chris Waller-trained galloper who gets the services of champion hoop Damien Oliver here. Proved he's a topliner in the Spring when he won Melbourne's feature Spring sprint event the G1 Darley Classic over this same track and trip. He beat Australia's best sprinters including Chautauqua, Terravista, Buffering, Srikandi & Boban amongst others - All FAIR AND SQUARE that day!



If there's one query in his formlines which are so very consistent it's that four of his five wins have come on rain-affected ground including his Darley Classic win and Saturday's expected track condition is a Good (3) which will be firm underfoot. His only win on dry was in 2014 in a Saturday grade 2yo handicap. He meets Chautauqua 2kg better here than for beating him over this same track and distance under six months ago. Resumed for a 2L 5th in the Lightning, but always improves 2nd up.

Many were shocked when he won the Darley - but I wasn't as this horse has always had huge ability. Don't be surprised if he adds another G1 over the Flemington straight six to his record this week!

3.TIGER TEES 54KG

Talented galloper on his day but form has deserted this now 8yo in the last 12 months with five runs in that period yielding zero placings. Comes here second up after being well beaten fresh in the Expressway in Sydney behind Our Boy Malachi & Solicit. That form is very good but he was beaten just too far to give it too much merit. Needs it wet, very wet against this lot. Will struggle.

4.BLACK HEART BART 53.5KG

Ex-West Aussie now in Victoria with premier trainer Darren Weir for this preparation. Can sprint very well fresh on his day despite being more effective over longer trips. He's won three of five with a placing at this trip but the best of those wins was in listed grade at Ascot where he scraped in. That's a far-cry from this level of race. He's ever-consistent with 10 wins and eight placings from 26 starts but it would take all of DK Weir's genius to improve him enough to win this fresh. Not for me.

5.CHARMED HARMONY 53KG

Has won three of seven at this distance but all of those have been in restricted grade. Resumed here on Feb 20 when he led over 1400m before knocking up and wilting quiet badly. Thomas Sadler did look after him once beaten but he still was beaten too soon for my liking. Meteoric rise in grade to this and it does look well beyond even on his very best form, which mind you in pretty handy in G2/3 grade. Pass.

6.JAPONISME 52.5KG

Winner of the G1 3yo sprint in the Spring the Coolmore Stud Stakes, in totally dominant fashion.



Resumed this prep in the Lightning and he was absolutely terrific leading all the way to just be collared late by Terravista & winner Chautauqua, beaten only a head. Thrives down the straight, with a G1 win & G1 placing from her only two runs down the Flemington straight. Drops from the 55.5kg he carried in the Lightning to just 52.5kg here, meaning that he's 2.5kg better off vs Chautauqua under the handicap conditions than he was in the Lightning at WFA and he won only beaten a head.

Chris Waller puts the polish on and he knows how to win this race with a 3yo, he did it with Brazen Beau who was coming off an identical third place finish first-up in the Lightning. In great form, loves the straight and drops dramatically in weight. He'll also make his own luck on the speed and with the lightweight that'll be very advantageous.

Ticks all the boxes. Very hard to beat!

7.CHURCHILL DANCER 52KG

Terrific second last start in the Australia Stakes behind Holler and that form is super with Holler subsequently winning a G1 last week. He's very honest but at start number 34 here, I'm convinced we've seen the best of him and that isn't good enough at this elite level. Not for me.

8.THE QUARTERBACK 52KG

Was terrific getting to the line in the Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield last start, but was still beaten 2L 6th. Ideally weighted, but seems outclassed for mine.

9.KEEN ARRAY 50KG

Highly fancied when resuming in the Oakleigh Plate fresh but disappointed finishing 8L off the winner. A post-race vet exam failed to reveal any issues. He got a decent enough run even if it was on the speed and just faded out of it. On that effort you couldn't back him here, but if you can cast your mind back to the spring he was runner-up to to Japonisme in the G1 Coolmore Stud. He'll meet Japonisme 2.5kg better off than he did that day at set-weights, so if he can reproduce his effort from that day he's right in the mix here.

Certainly wouldn't shock me to see him improve sharply back to the straight course which he's obviously fond of. Take on trust but definite hope.

10.COUNTERATTACK 50KG

Trialled terrificly on the 29/02 at Rosehill in the lead up to this, winning the heat. So Waller obviously has him primed to run a big race here first up. Last race start he was third here in the G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes behind stablemate Japonisme in the spring, see replay above. Only has 50kg and that sees him meeting Japonisme 2.5kg better for his 2.3L defeat in that race, where he'd done all the hard work in front. G1 champion Glen Boss takes the ride and he never rides a bad one in these feature events.

Terrific value at the current quote and a nice each way bet. Can definitely win.

11.SECRET AGENDA 50KG

Progressive 3yo Mick Price filly having just her eighth race start here. Still on the upward spiral no doubt and might in time develop into a G1 quality horse but at the moment it would take a very sharp spike in her form and ratings from my point of view to see her in contention here even with the light weight. Not Recommending.

I think we might see a similarly run affair to that which we witnessed 12 months ago. I think Japonisme me will stalk the speed and set sail for home early with the lightweight and make the others catch him if good enough. Chautauqua will be running on and Counterattack and Delectation will be strong through the line but might just lack the turn of foot which Japonisme has.

TIPS

6.JAPONISME
1.CHAUTAUQUA
10.COUNTERATTACK
2.DELECTATION
9.KEEN ARRAY

SUGGESTED BETS
JAPONISME (WIN) @ $3.90
COUNTERATTACK (EACH WAY) @ $10 as a saver

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